In another thread, Ed George insists that humans invented mathematics as a way to describe the behavior of phenomena, but that doesn’t mean mathematics is an intrinsic aspect of the universe, a part we discovered, not invented. Here’s why that position is untenable.

Mr. George is correct that humans invent languages – the language of mathematics included. Languages are systems of symbols that represent things. For example, the word “sphere” can be expressed with different symbols in different languages, but the symbols all refer to the same thing – in this case, the form of an object in the real world. That we invented the symbols and language to describe a real thing *doesn’t mean we invented the real thing itself.*

As Mr. George agrees, mathematics (in terms of this debate) is an invented system of symbols used to describe behaviors of phenomena (physics).

However, humans did not *invent *those behaviors; we are only describing them using symbolic language. Phenomena in the universe behave in, let’s say, “X” manner. X is a set of discoverable patterns. We discovered those patterns and applied symbolic language to represent and calculate them. In the same way that “sphere-ness” is an inherent quality of something in the universe which we use the term “sphere” to represent, “mathematics” is a term we use to represent an inherent quality of the universe.

Yet, Mr. George denies that we can know whether or not we “discovered” these behaviors (which we call “mathematics”. Of course we did, and we use symbolic language to describe those qualities and behaviors we have discovered.

This same, simple logic can be applied more broadly. We invented a symbolic language in order to refer to things we discover about our existence and the universe, as KF is pointing out, in terms of logical first principles. We did not invent that 1+2=3; those symbols represent observable facts. We did not invent the principle of identity out of whole cloth; it represents an observable fact and, more deeply, a universal structure that human minds cannot escape, no matter how hard we try or imagine. As KF points out, it is responsible for our ability to have cognition at all or to invent and use language. Logical first principles are a fact of our existence which we discovered – first as “X”, then using a string of symbols to represent.

Beyond observable facts, such symbolic language can represent other discoverable facts; such as, some things are impossible to imagine. Imagine that 1+2=4 in any observable way. You can say the words or write the equation, but it is not possible to imagine it being a discoverable fact in any scenario. It’s a nonsensical proposition, much like a 4-sided triangle. The inability to imagine a thing has other implications, but that’s for another conversation.

Language is the invention, but language is itself governed by certain necessary rules. Those rules were entirely hidden to us in the beginning, but we know they were there because inevitably all languages follow those fundamental rules even if we are unaware of them, the first of which is the principle of identity. Without that, language is impossible.

These “X” characteristics of our universe and our existence are things we discovered and then used symbolic systems to represent.

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# Responding to Ed George About Mathematics

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_{ William Murray December 13, 2018 Intelligent Design }

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